ACTS OF THE APOSTLES CHAPTER 10
The gospel wind was finally arriving at the doorsteps of the Gentiles and this chapter marked the beginning of preaching the gospel to the end of the earth. The gospel of the Kingdom testifying to the Jews that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah of Israel had been soundly rejected by the Jews and those in power and hence the Kingdom would not come until they acknowledged Christ as their Messiah.
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Luke 13:35)
While many Jews had turned to Christ with the healing and preaching ministries of the apostles and the disciples of Christ, the nation as a whole had rejected their Messiah. The gospel should not hence continue to remain with the Jews alone. They had been given their chance and now it was the Gentiles’ turn to respond to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. (John 4:21-23)
So with the Jews given the privilege to hear the gospel preached to them and they had rejected salvation from above, it was time to round up the Gentiles and bring them into the family of God. Those Jews who rejected their Messiah would find that they had been replaced with the Gentiles.
And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:11&12)
As such, the background of a Gentile was first introduced and the salvation of this man and his household was recorded to show the movement of the gospel was now reaching the Gentiles. There was no turning back of the gospel clock as the Lord was preparing a people for Himself to be His Bride, the Church of the living God made up mostly of Gentiles.
Acts 10:1: There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
Acts 10:2: A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
Acts 10:3: He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
Acts 10:4: And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
Acts 10:5: And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
Acts 10:6: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
Here was a Gentile man, a centurion whose profession was a soldier, not one who was usually gentile, nice and kind in that type of occupation (Luke 3:14), was known to be a devout man who feared God. Though salvation is of the Jews, it does not mean there is no salvation outside of the Jewish race. For all people on earth knew God before the Law was given by Moses and the Lord would judge them according to their respond to the knowledge God had given them via their conscience.
For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (Romans 2:12&13)
Before the cross of Christ, God judged the Jews according to the Law and the Gentiles outside of the Law. Immediately after the cross, this was about to change. This does not necessarily mean that those who did not have the chance to hear the gospel preached to them were all doomed for hell fire. For the Chinese in the far east, the Africans in the deep south as well as the Caucasians in the far west would not have the privilege of hearing the gospel preached to them immediately. It would take a long time before the whole world gets to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The old principle of God judging the Jews according to the Law and the Gentiles outside of the Law still applies.
However with the advent of the gospel of the grace of God, this arrangement was gradually changing as the Lord was building a church unto Himself. The world would thus fall into three categories as far as God’s dealing with the human race is concerned. In the present time, there are the Jews, the Gentiles as well as the Church of God where Christians would do well not to give offence to any of these three groups of people.
Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: (1 Corinthians 10:32)
Hence, recorded here was the Lord preparing this good man who feared God to received salvation in a perfect manner as the gospel was moving in the direction towards the Gentiles. Unlike the rich man who went to hell in Luke 16, Cornelius was a charitable man of good work. He was a man who was a doer of the word and not a hearer only even though there was no Law of Moses given unto him.
(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) (Romans 2:13-15)
So before the Law, God judged all people on earth according to their work with their conscience. When the Law arrived, the Lord still judged the Gentiles according to their work via their conscience but the Jews according the Law. The Gentiles are not condemned just because they are not given the Law as they still have the laws of God written in their hearts. This is still true even with the arrival of the gospel after the cross. People in this world are not condemned just because they are not given a chance to hear the gospel living in remote parts of the world. They are condemned because there is still a law written in the heart of every man where God will use to judge that man.
So this man Cornelius was not a man of the circumcision but he had the law written in his heart bearing witness that he was doing the work of the circumcision. Cornelius was a man who prayed to God always though he did not know Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. This shows that any son of Adam is capable of knowing God and approaching God and even praying to God, albeit in an imperfect manner until the Lord shows him the way, the truth and the life. For those who are not given the privilege to hear the gospel preached to them, the way God deals with the Jews and the Gentiles is still applicable.
The truth of the matter recorded here was that God heard the prayer of this man who did not know Jesus. Moreover, God answered prayer from this man who was not of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. God knew the heart of this man and God was pleased to show him the way of salvation. This man had work according to the law written in his heart to back up his faith in the true and living God. So this man was granted an audience with the angel of God who informed him that God had accepted his prayers and good works. He was instructed to send men to look for Peter in Joppa who would tell him what to do. The posture of Cornelius was one of timidity, even as he was a hardened soldier trained for battles, and of humility as well. Like Saul, he addressed this angel of God as Lord. For indeed men are made lower than angels and even for the Lord Jesus Christ when He came as a man to redeem fallen man.
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:7&9)
Acts 10:7: And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
Acts 10:8: And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.
This man Cornelius was indeed a good man. Even among his midst, there was a soldier close to him was devout as well. It was clear that this man was sincere and his good works had reached others around him. So he related what happened to him concerning the vision he received and sent them on their way to look for the apostle Peter at Joppa. That confrontation with this angelic being that morning would change the status of this man forever. This would be the beginning of the perfect salvation coming the way to the household of this devout centurion.
Acts 10:9: On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
Acts 10:10: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
Acts 10:11: And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
Acts 10:12: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
Acts 10:13: And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
Acts 10:14: But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
Acts 10:15: And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
Acts 10:16: This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.
So the following morning, the Lord prepared Peter for a change in attitude towards the Gentiles. Peter’s coming to Joppa was not coincidental but providential. He was sent to Joppa to wait for his next mission and little did he realize that he had to use the keys given to him to open the gospel door to the Gentiles. While the men from Cornelius were coming, Peter was been dealt with otherwise, he would not have met these Gentiles and followed them. His upbringing and the custom of his fathers would not allow him this liberty during that time.
Peter was a devout man as well and he was a prayerful man too as he told the disciples they were supposed to be given unto prayers and the word of God. So this was another occasion for him to hold a prayer meeting with his Lord and the venue was the housetop at noon. It was about time for lunch and while lunch was being prepared, Peter was hungry and fell into a trance. What he saw coming down from heaven was not like manna during Moses’ time. It was surely not something appetizing to say the least. As a Jew it would be unimaginable for him to touch such food let alone consume such unclean food. However, he was commanded to kill those animals and eat them. Peter as usual as a straight talker, based on the way he was brought up not only refused to eat, he told the Lord he would not eat such things and argued with the Lord that he had never eaten anything that was common or unclean.
Of course the Lord knew all this but the object lesson was not about eating. Since Peter was hungry at that moment, it was be the right time to teach him to move on from the Law unto Grace where times were then changing where the Gentiles were ready to enter a covenant relationship with God not available to them in the past. The Church was now expanding to include the Gentiles and so Peter was being educated regarding his attitude towards them. When Peter refused to eat and argued with the Lord, the Lord told him what God had cleansed, Peter must not call them common and regard them as unclean. Peter having denied the Lord three times and having been asked by the Lord three times whether he loved the Lord, once again, he was dealt with like no other apostles. This object lesson was repeated three times to confirm to Peter that it was indeed a vision from the Lord concerning the changing of times and there was something about the vision he would have to act upon. So his hunger was quickly turned into serious contemplation with regarded to what the Lord was teaching him during that prayer meeting.
Acts 10:17: Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate,
Acts 10:18: And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
Acts 10:19: While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
Acts 10:20: Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
As event was unfolding where Peter was in doubt about the vision, those men from Cornelius household were making enquiry for Peter before the gate. The Spirit of God told Peter three men were seeking for him and instructed him not to doubt but to go down with them because God had sent them. Had the Lord not dealt with Peter, he would probably not have anything to do with these Gentiles. He was the apostle of the circumcision and his main mission was to reach the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Acts 10:21: Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
Acts 10:22: And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
Acts 10:23: Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.
So Peter met those men from Cornelius. He was told about Cornelius and the reason of their coming to look for him. They were expecting Peter to tell Cornelius what to do because he was warned by God to send for Peter. As such, Peter invited them into the house to stay for the night and went with them to meet Cornelius with six other brethren.
And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house: (Acts 11:12)
It was important that Peter did not go alone. He was not supposed to have anything to do with the Gentiles and he needed witnesses to go along with him in case he might be accused by the Jews of impropriety as far as their customs were concerned. The unique number of men being ten traveling together to Caesarea also showed the Gentiles were ready to be offered the gospel of the grace of God.
Acts 10:24: And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
Acts 10:25: And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
Acts 10:26: But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
Acts 10:27: And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
Acts 10:28: And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
Acts 10:29: Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?
Finally the next day Peter and company arrived at the home of Cornelius and found Cornelius waiting for him together with his kinsmen and near friends. Cornelius no doubt was an influential man as his good works were well known by the people there. As Peter stepped into the house, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet to worship Peter. Cornelius was a good and charitable man who feared God and tried to approach God but with imperfect knowledge. So he thought Peter was a person worthy of worship sent by God. He was immediately corrected by Peter who told him that he was also just a man. Worship is unreservedly reserved only for God and no man or angel is worthy of any form of worship.
Peter also informed Cornelius that it was unlawful for him being a Jew to keep company or come unto one from another nation. In short Peter was forbidden to have anything to do with the Gentiles. Had the Lord not shown Peter that he should not call any man common or unclean from the vision of those unclean animals, Peter would not be at the house of Cornelius that day. Hence Peter asked what was Cornelius’ intention of sending for him.
Acts 10:30: And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
Acts 10:31: And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
Acts 10:32: Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee.
Acts 10:33: Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.
So Cornelius related what happened to him during his personal prayer meeting where he received an angelic visitation instructing him to look for Peter. The Bible recorded that angels were always seen as men and here Cornelius reported that he saw a man in bright clothing. Angels are never females and any angelic beings appearing as females are devils where people the world over worship female deities. Moreover, Cornelius took spiritual matters very seriously and he had been fasting for four days since he was warned of God to call for Peter. Thus Cornelius got his household in order with friends all ready to receive revelation from Peter.
Acts 10:34: Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
Acts 10:35: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
Acts 10:36: The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
Acts 10:37: That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;
Acts 10:38: How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
Acts 10:39: And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
Acts 10:40: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
Acts 10:41: Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
Acts 10:42: And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
Acts 10:43: To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
Peter was no stranger to preaching to small and great in Israel. Even the temple in Jerusalem was turned into his chapel during confrontations with the Jewish religious authorities. However, Peter’s preaching so far was limited to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and the furthest he went was to those half Jews at Samaria. Now he was invited to preach to a bunch of Gentiles in a centurion’s home. This would be something unthinkable had not the Lord dealt with him concerning the evolving times where the Gentiles were now ready to be absorbed into the Body of Christ. Being a recipient of the keys to the Kingdom and the power and privilege to remit and retain sins, Peter now found himself preaching from a Gentile pulpit to Gentile candidates. This was indeed an unusual assignment for him but nonetheless, Peter preached without fear or favour of men and only in the power of the Holy Ghost for the glory of God.
So Peter’s opening sermon testified that God was not a respecter of person having been recently taught about the human race in general. God had raised up Israel for a very specific purpose of bring the Messiah into the world and now that Israel had totally rejected their Messiah, it was time to set Israel aside so that the Gentiles might hear the gospel of God’s saving grace. Peter acknowledged that people of all nations who feared God and worked righteousness were accepted by God. Israel as a nation who was supposed to fear God and work righteousness turned out to be traitor to the faith and covenant relationship with Jehovah God. Once again, it was not those hearing of the Law were justified before God and it was those doing the work of the Law like Cornelius that were accepted by God. So God sent the gospel in their paths to receive salvation in a perfect manner to come to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus Peter preached from the beginning of the gospel from the ministry of John the Baptist and all that happened during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. In particular, Peter testified that the Lord Jesus Christ was Lord of all, especially so to this Gentile audience in case they might think that Jesus was only Lord of the Jews. The Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry to the Jews was to preach peace but His hearers were anything but peaceful and peace loving. As far as the gospel was concerned, the death and burial of Christ were just part of the gospel. Most importantly, the resurrection of Christ was the main theme where the apostles were made witnesses to testify of Christ’s resurrection. Moreover, it was this resurrected Saviour who would one day judge all men dead or alive. As such, those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ shall receive remission of sin.
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:46-48)
Therefore, the gospel was now openly preached to the Gentiles where the name of Christ was now preached among all nations which at first began at Jerusalem where the apostles were witnesses of all that happened to the Lord. Peter had been faithful in preaching Christ to these Gentiles. In the past, he would exhort his hearers to respond to his preaching and he expected results where the repentant hearers would acknowledge their sins and believe the Lord follow by water baptism and receiving of the gift of the Holy Ghost. But this time would be different for this Gentile audience.
Acts 10:44: While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
Acts 10:45: And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 10:46: For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
Acts 10:47: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
Acts 10:48: And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
Before Peter could give an invitation to receive salvation, the Lord bypassed Peter’s usual modus operandi. This time the Holy Ghost fell on these people who heard the words preached by Peter. Moreover, they spoke with tongues and magnified God to the utter astonishment of the Jews present. They were surprised that upon the Gentiles were poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift of the Holy Ghost was openly manifested by these recipients speaking in tongues. These tongues were definitely not gibberish. Those present understood their tongues and these people were magnifying God with these newfound tongues which were once unknown to them. The implication of this outpouring of the Holy Ghost upon these people was that these people were already saved and accepted by God.
Undoubtedly the Lord was moving away from the usual mode of repentance and salvation so familiar with the apostle Peter and those Jews who were accustomed to. The Lord saved those men and women that day without having them to respond to Peter’s preaching openly, verbally and outwardly. The Lord knew their hearts and while they were hearing the sermon, they were already saved where they responded in their hearts lifting up their souls to the Lord away from the prying eyes of anyone seeking outward acknowledgement. The Lord was pleased to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them to teach Peter and those Jews present what the Lord was doing to the Gentiles that day.
As such, Peter asked the Jews whether anyone would oppose to these people to be baptized in water who had already received the Holy Ghost like they had received in the beginning. So Cornelius and those with him were baptized in water that day. In addition, these Gentile believers need not submit to laying on of hands by Peter to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. They already received the Holy Ghost before Peter baptized them in water. This marked the initiation of the Gentiles into the Body of Christ where they would receive the Holy Ghost the moment when they believed the Lord just like the Ethiopian eunuch. It was expedient that the Jewish brethren went with Peter that day. Without these Jewish witnesses, Peter would get himself into trouble. Whatever Peter said to the Jews in the future would not be believed and acceptable to them.
This was the turning point of the glorious gospel of the grace of God where these Gentiles were gloriously saved where Peter needed not lay hands on them to receive the Holy Ghost. It must have been an eye-opening experience for Peter and his Jewish brethren being so uptight and narrow-minded about the Gentiles. The hour had come and the Gentiles were now accepted into the Church, the family of God. Then Peter and the Jews stayed with Cornelius for certain days, most likely teaching them and grounding them in the truth concerning Christ and the Kingdom. The gospel wind was fast accelerating outward and Peter’s involvement would soon be fading while an apostle to the Gentiles would be getting ready for action in the not too distant future.